Coming from one-man team, Matt Clifton, at Polypusher Studios Montague’s Mount is referred to on the official game site as “a first person psychological roller-coaster ride… “. I would certainly concur that the game brings the psychological elements of gaming to the fore, the speed of the game’s protagonist could hardly be compared to that of a ‘roller-coaster ride’.
A short trip around a small portion of the island can take – what feels like – forever, as your stranded, ship-wrecked main character stumbles and ambles around beaches, fields and seemingly uninhabited buildings.
Given that the game also relies on a first-person perspective, it can be incredible jarring (and often irritating) that you not only travel so slowly, but also that your character sways constantly. This is clearly as a result of whatever catastrophe befell ‘you’ that led to being trapped here and in many ways it lends superbly to the feeling that all is not quite right but many will find that too off-putting and may not explore any further.
Thankfully, that is one of only a few gripes with this beautifully morose psychological thriller. The first, I believe, to take place entirely in Ireland and the fact that all objects are named in Gaelic adds a very real sense of ‘place’ and gives the game its’ own particular Irish flavour.
The game has initially drawn comparison’s with The Chinese Room’s Dear Esther and, despite having not yet played that game, I can see why even at a glance. However, having recently played Gone Home I feel there are some similarities here, in terms of tone, atmosphere and the constant sense that while you’re alone in searching this world (or in Gone Homes case, large house) you may also not be alone.
It is that sense that not all is quite right and that the place looks like it was very recently inhabited, but feels as if nobody has been there in aeons that makes both games feel incredibly eerie and poignant.
The crux of the game is in exploration and puzzles, and while this is where the protagonist’s movements bring the game down most, thankfully this is also the area that elevates the experience. Through exploring the areas, picking up items and reading descriptions, notes and so on, you get a feel for what has happened here, but you’ll also begin to understand further what has happened to you, the games main character.
The puzzles and solutions range in difficulty, depending on how your brain is wired to approach your surroundings. If you have a natural affinity for solving puzzles then logic and common sense should help you prevail but it is not always straightforward.
Perhaps through getting to grips with the island and mechanics early on, I managed to spend 40 minutes repeatedly picking up items looking for a solution. I can imagine though, if I’d been recently ship-wrecked and had some trouble with remembering who I was, I may also have trouble solving the odd puzzle, so I didn’t feel like I’d dragged myself out of the immersion!
Another aspect of the experience which adds to the immersion is the effective use of minimal controls. You’ll find few of the usual gamut of gaming controls/mechanics through Montague’s Mount, other than up, down, strafe left and right, as well as using objects and your own inventory.
While it might sound strange to say as much, it really does make this kind of experience more unique when you’re forced to just rely on a limited range of inputs and while the ability to sprint (or at least walk a bit faster) would be a welcome addition, this is not the kind of game you’ll want (and nor should you) hop, jump, roll and shoot your way through.
As you progress through Montague’s Mount, you’ll discover interesting and eerie locales and building and some downright creepy caves but, like similar games such as Gone Home and Dear Esther you’ll have a greater appreciation for prose and dialogue in video games and how such things, when done well, more than make up for exotic HD alien worlds and driving big, heavily detailed tanks and force you to use your own imagination to fill in the gaps.